Spain’s La Liga has got underway over the past few days with VAR and goal-line technology for the first time but without Cristiano Ronaldo and there was certainly an element of a new era in a league which has almost been defined by the brilliance of two players over the past decade.
It will be interesting to see how the dynamic changes now Leo Messi is not in the same league as his long-term Ballon d’O rival and whether someone like Gareth Bale or Antoine Griezmann can step up and get close to Messi’ immense returns in terms of goals and assists. The first weekend only really gave minor clues as to whether that is likely. Here are some of the main stories from match-day one in La Liga:
Read more: La Liga season outright tips
Empty Seats but Job Done for Barca & Real
Both Barcelona and Real Madrid were handed distinctly winnable home games on the opening weekend. Neither quite hit top gear, not totally surprising coming little over a month after the end of the World Cup, but both did the job they needed to do and started the season with wins.
Barcelona were frustrated by Alaves for 64 minutes on Saturday. However once Leo Messi broke the deadlock, there was only going to be one winner and a 3-0 victory ultimately didn’t flatter them as the champions laid down an early marker to remind everyone why they are the team to beat. Real Madrid got their campaign underway the following night against Getafe at the Santiago Bernabeu. They perhaps had an even greater need to start well following the UEFA Super Cup defeat and they did that with a 2-0 win over Getafe with Gareth Bale on the mark.
Perhaps the most notable thing about either game though was the number of empty seats. Just 48,446 turned up at the Bernabeu, Real Madrid’s worst league crowd in 10 years, perhaps an early sign of how Ronaldo’s departure may have an impact off the pitch. Things weren’t much better at Camp Nou with 52,356 watching Barcelona, their worst season opening crowd in a decade and worst league attendance since match-day five of last term against Eibar.
Valencia & Atleti share the spoils
There was just shy of 50,000 at the Mestalla to see the biggest game of the opening match-day on Monday night. Atleti have been tipped by many to win the title this season while Valencia are the best equipped side to break up the top three’s dominance so it was a real test of both team’s credentials.
It finished with a point apiece, perhaps a fair reflection on the game and a solid start for both teams. Angel Correa broke the deadlock for Atleti having been expertly set up by Antoine Griezmann. The Argentine had been drafted into the team in place of summer signing Rodri and could be in for a big season having shown glimpses of his talent in recent years. However his goal wouldn’t prove a winner as Rodrigo opened his account for the season early in the Second Half for a Valencia side that introduced Kevin Gameiro from the bench to make his debut against the team he had departed just eight days previously.
Read more: Can Atleti win the title?
Levante win 3-0 at Betis with 23% possession
xG map for Real Betis – Levante
lol betis outshot them 22-6 pic.twitter.com/Y1Pc6d4cT9
— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) August 19, 2018
The season started with a real surprise on Friday night. Much excitement surrounds Betis this term following an active summer of recruitment as they prepare for European football. Quique Setién has brought both entertainment and results to the Benito Villamarin but his side were dealt an early reality check as Levante left Seville with all the points from something of a smash and grab raid.
Betis dominated the possession stats, as they often do at home. They enjoyed a 77% share of the possession with an exceptional 91% passing accuracy compared to Levante’s 65%. However if ever there was a game to prove that ball retention isn’t everything, this was it. While Real Betis patiently prodded and probed, Levante broke with speed and purpose, delivering the perfect counter-attacking display with José Luis Morales scoring twice off the break to round off an excellent opening day victory for the Valencia club.
Mixed Starts for the New Boys
FT: Eibar 1-2 Huesca
Huesca win their first ever game in LaLiga at the first attempt. pic.twitter.com/NPA6OuM5An
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) August 19, 2018
As for the newly promoted sides, it was a distinctly mixed beginning. Real Valladolid were pretty poor at Girona, offering little going forward but managed to hang on for a 0-0 draw, which represents a solid start on their return to La Liga.
Relegation favourites Huesca though were in dreamland on Sunday as they made their first ever appearance in La Liga. The tiny club from North-western Spain won the battle of the minnows at Eibar. A First Half brace from Alex Gallar, a player who hadn’t played at a level higher than the third tier until last season, ensured Leo Franco made a great start to his coaching career with a 2-1 victory.
However there was no such luck for Rayo Vallecano, the Segunda Division champions last term and the team who the bookies think have the best chance of avoiding the drop. They were completely outplayed by an impressive Sevilla side, who cruised to a 4-1 victory in Vallecas, leaving the Madrid club with plenty to reflect on heading into next weekend.
Andre Silva puts Milan nightmare behind him
It took André Silva (22) just 79 minutes in La Liga to surpass his goal tally in Serie A last season.
Debut day hat trick for the Portuguese marksman. pic.twitter.com/oyd2ZMzm6y
— Scouted Football (@ScoutedFtbl) August 19, 2018
The Rayo-Sevilla game also produced the stand-out individual performance of the weekend. It came in the somewhat unlikely form of an Andre Silva hat-trick. The Portuguese international is looking to kick-start his career with Sevilla following a miserable loan stint in Serie A last term. He only managed two goals all season in the Italian top flight with Milan but has already bettered that tally with Sevilla after an opening day hat-trick.
He was helped by some charitable Rayo Vallecano defending but the early signs are that this could be a marriage that works. Sevilla have been searching for a reliable striker for a couple of seasons now and they will hope that in Silva, they’ve found their man and at 22, there is certainly plenty of room for improvement.
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